GIFTED nurses often have fascinating stories to tell, and we’re committed to sharing the journeys of the nurses we serve. Each month, we interview a GIFTED RN so we can share their story in our GIFTED Spotlight series.
Today’s spotlight shines on Eddie Kaiser, a veteran RN that recently took his first GIFTED travel nursing assignment. We spoke to him while he was still on assignment in Vallejo, California.
Read on to learn about Eddie’s nursing journey: his experience as a medic in the US Army, working with COVID-19 patients, and his thoughtful philosophy of care.
Inspirations & Early Experience
Born in Buffalo, New York, Eddie’s career in healthcare began when he was a teenager. At 17, Eddie was accepted to helicopter pilot school in the US Army. But shortly after joining the program, his plans changed.
“Two weeks into the program, they realized I had a depth perception issue, and I was given two options: I could either become a medic in the army or an infantryman,” Eddie said. “And that was a no-brainer. I decided that if I couldn’t fly in the front of the helicopter, I was going to get into the back of the helicopter one day.”
So Eddie stuck with his aspirations of taking flight, albeit in a different seat. He began his nursing education at the University of Hawaii. Eddie knew that in order to fly, he had to be well-trained as an ER nurse and ICU nurse. His first nursing jobs were in ER and trauma units, which he did for “quite a while.” Eddie became a helicopter medic, moved on to become a Special Forces medic, and then joined an Army Reserve unit in California as a registered nurse, eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
Although Eddie’s head was in the clouds, so to speak, he also learned to master the roads. Some of his first jobs were in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region known for its dense fog, where he provided critical-care ground transport for patients who couldn’t be flown to hospitals nearby due to low visibility.
Eddie recalled a particularly memorable moment during his time as a CCT nurse. “My claim to fame was delivering a 28-week old infant on the Golden Gate Bridge as we were hauling butt to San Francisco to get to the NICU,” he laughed.
Soon after, Eddie achieved his dream and got his first flight jobs: first in Oklahoma and then in Texas, where he went on to be the program director of two air medical bases in the Houston area.
Master’s Time: Leadership Training & Health Administration
As his career progressed, Eddie felt like it was time to further his education and decided to pursue his Master’s degree.
“Eventually, I felt like it was ‘Master’s Time,'” Eddie said. “I decided to go down the administrative route, because I felt that Leadership, instead of the Clinical route, was where I needed to be. So I got my Master’s in Health Administration and began working in leadership positions.”
This led Eddie to Houston, Texas, where he has been living for the past 12 years. Since then, he has gained a wealth of experience working as an administrator in various hospitals in the area: he has been an ER director, a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) in two different facilities, and opened a cardiac hospital and a surgical hospital.
Joining the Fight Against COVID-19
Eddie has been on multiple travel assignments throughout his career, but he started travel nursing again last year to join the fight against COVID-19. His first destination was New York City, the biggest COVID-19 hotspot in the nation at that time.
“I saw what was going on, I saw that nurses were heading out there to help,” he said. Eddie’s military training and background in leadership gave him the confidence to tackle the crisis head-on.
Eddie recalled some of the fear, uncertainty, and tragic scenes that could be seen all across the country at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. But he also remembers the intense bonds he formed with his fellow nurses.
“I made some lifelong friends,” he said. “We were shoulder to shoulder in the trenches every single day. It was incredible.”
Eddie then traveled to Florida and Texas to keep battling on the front lines, and then found his way to GIFTED Healthcare.
Travel Nursing with GIFTED Healthcare
Eddie recently began his first assignment with GIFTED in Vallejo, California. His current specialties are ER, ICU, Flight Nursing, and Administration. Coincidentally, Eddie’s facility is one of the very first hospitals he ever worked as a registered nurse, 23 years ago.
“When I found out I was coming back here, it was really cool,” he said. There are still a few people here that remember me.”
When Eddie arrived, he found that his wealth of experience in leadership and administration was in demand at his facility. He was swiftly made the House Supervisor, working with the administrative team to oversee throughput processes and ensure the facility is running smoothly. Eddie’s position is quite unique for a travel nurse, and this is the result of his fantastic clinical experience.
“I feel very honored to be in this position because it wasn’t what I thought I’d be getting into,” Eddie remarked. “But I decided to just take the bull by the horns and roll with it, and it’s metamorphosed into this wonderful situation.”
The facility staff has welcomed Eddie with open arms, commenting that it feels as though Eddie has been a team member for years, rather than weeks.
“My experience has been exceptional,” said Eddie. “I have been in multiple travel assignments throughout my career, and I have never been on a travel assignment like this. It has been phenomenal. Things are run very well here — they have been very accepting and gracious, and they are very happy to have travel nurses here.”
Eddie also has really enjoyed working with Team GIFTED. “I’ve really, really enjoyed being with GIFTED,” he said. “My recruiter is outstanding and has been very responsive.”
Eddie clearly has excellent tact and skills as a travel nurse. His ability to step into new clinical environments and quickly succeed is the result of his diverse clinical experience and consideration of his teammates.
We asked Eddie if he had any strategies for building connections in new facilities, and he did: “The number one thing that I do is show my new teammates that I am here to help them, to be their asset, to adapt to their core values. I try to understand throughput, and ask, ‘what are the top five most important things here?'”
We’re thrilled that Eddie feels part of the team on his current assignment, and we’re proud that he’s a GIFTED nurse!
The Ideal Nurse
Any time we spotlight a GIFTED RN, we always ask them to describe the qualities of the ideal nurse. Each nurse must draw from an intensely personal and unique set of experiences to create their own philosophy of care.
Eddie’s image of the ideal nurse is comprehensive, painting a picture of an individual with deep compassion and accountability to others as well as a strong sense of duty and confidence:
“Well, the standard answer is someone who is compassionate, who wants good healthcare for their patients, but I like to go deeper. A nurse needs to be somebody who treats their patients as though they are family. However, that patient is also the chairman of the board. For the most part, patients are in control of their care, until they can’t be anymore. To me, it’s very important to make sure the patient is shoulder to shoulder with you as a caregiver.
A nurse must be able to think critically through a process of care — for any patient, you need to ask yourself, ‘What are the family dynamics of this patient? What is their belief system? What are their core values?’ The ideal nurse is well-rounded with all of that, including compassion, patience, caring, attention to detail. And finally, you have to know what you’re doing: you have to be skilled, you have to be confident, and you have to be able to go into new situations and mesh into the nursing staff. An ideal travel nurse not only has to display these qualities with patients, but they also have to display these qualities with the staff around them.”
Thrive in Your Nursing Career with GIFTED
We are honored to support the heroic work of nurses like Eddie Kaiser. His fascinating nursing journey is an inspiration, and we look forward to the chance to work with him in the future!
It’s our mission to support nurses and healthcare professionals by giving them the opportunities and resources they need to thrive.
Begin your adventure today with GIFTED Healthcare!